Movie Review: PIRATE RADIO

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pirate radioFocus Features
2009
R

“The way I look at it, the world couldn’t survive without my comedy, and who’s going to have the moral backbone to play the Seekers when the mood is right?”
“They’ve split up.”
“I intend to celebrate the back catalogue.”
“I intend to stop you doing so.”

It’s 1966–pop music’s finest era–and a bunch of ramshackle DJs play rock & pop 24 hours a day, broadcasting from Radio Rock, an infamous pirate radio ship in the North Sea. On board arrives 18-year-old Carl, which is instantly plunged into a serious of hilarious and life-changing adventures and misadventures. His mother thought the boat would straighten him out–a spectacular mistake!

I don’t often watch non-horror movies. And I don’t always often watch non-horror movies that exist in the genre of “comedy”. And if you’re expecting some kind of wry attempt at that particular meme, I’m afraid you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Anyway, once in a while I do fancy a nice funny ha-ha movie, especially when it involves my long-time hobby as an on-air DJ enthusiast. And despite the lackluster hype blurb on the back of the DVD case, taking a gander at the list of actors staring in this flick was enough to get me to check this movie out. Bill Nighy? Nick Frost? Kenneth Branagh? Philip Seymour Hoffman? I figured I was in for a treat.

So, I should really point out to those who weren’t aware (or cared), that Pirate Radio was the name of the movie that was given to the American release. This being a British film, over across the pond (as they say), the movie is known as The Boat That Rocked. I’m unsure as to which one would be the optimum title overall. I mean, the original title has that subtle British quality of pun. But, the American title kind of plays off of our current obsession with pirates. Eh, pointless bunny trail, this. Let’s get to the movie, shall we?

Set in the height of the Swingin’ Sixties, the story mostly takes place on a ship that’s anchored in the North Sea, a ship that broadcasts all the rock n’ roll you can handle on a 24-7-365 basis. You see, the BBC doesn’t believe that the morally corruptive devil music that is rock and/or roll should be officially broadcast over their airwaves, so this nautical pirate radio popped up to fill that much needed void in everyone’s lives. It is on this derelict barge that young Carl was sent to after being expelled from school, as his godfather runs the station. One has to wonder what kind of rehabilitation his mother was expecting a boat full of quirky rock n’ roll dee jays with a rebellious streak to give, but needless to say it doesn’t take long for the staff to take Carl under their unorthodox tutelage, showing him how to stick it to The Man with rock n’ roll…and have lots of fun doing it. Less wackiness ensues, as does hijinks on the high seas, I guess.

In execution, Pirate Radio (or The Boat That Rocked, depending on what country you’re reading this at) seems less of a narrative and more of a series of situations thrown together that don’t really advance a story in the traditional movie watchin’ sense. This seems more a collection of snippets from a failed situation comedy thrown together, with some footage of a bit of a plot filmed to give the movie more of a narrative.

It’s not to say Pirate Radio is a bad movie. It’s highly entertaining, with some fantastic performances from the mostly-British cast working off each other wonderfully. The movie got quite a few chuckles, a handful of chortles, and a couple of outright laughs. The soundtrack is fantastic, featuring a lot of deeper cuts from the era. It does drag a bit at certain areas, though, and the sub-plot (for lack of better word) of the government minister’s various attempts to shut the boat down seemed more shoehorned in as an afterthought.

Overall, Pirate Radio was an entertaining, if disjointed, period comedy. It’s worth a rental look, at the very least.

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Movie Review: The WORLD’S END

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the worlds endUniversal Pictures
2013
R

“I still think nothing that has been suggested in the last 10 minutes beats ‘smashy smashy egg men’.”

20 years after attempting an epic pub crawl, five childhood friends reunite when one of them becomes hell bent on trying the drinking marathon again. They are convinced to stage an encore by mate Gary King who drags his reluctant pals to their home town and once again attempts to reach the fabled pub, The World’s End. As they attempt to reconcile the past and present, they realize the real struggle is for the future, not just theirs but humankind’s. Reaching The World’s End is the least of their worries.

It’s interesting to note that the whole “Three Flavors Cornetto” movie trilogy concept started as a joke while promoting Shaun Of The Dead. Director Edgar Wright quipped that SotD was the first in the “Three Flavors Cornetto” series (a Cornetto being the ice cream snack brand that Nick Frost’s character craved in the movie, kind of like a Drumstick cone here in the States), and it kind of became a reality. The three movie “flavors” being Horror (Shaun Of The Dead), Action (Hot Fuzz), and finally Science Fiction, which is the focus of this review (obviously). And now I kind of crave an ice creme. Drat.

The World’s End tells the story of a bloke who decides to gather up his high school mates to finally finish the entirety of a pub crawl they didn’t manage to finish back when they graduated high school for…reasons. It takes some convincing, but they all take a holiday and head out to their hometown of Newton Haven for a fun time. In theory, anyway. Things don’t go exactly as planned, however, when they start noticing that the pubs they remember have changed. Sure, there’s the fact that it’s been 20-some-odd years, and the axiom “You can’t go home again” rings true; but things are a bit more odd–like all the pubs looking the same. Or hardly anybody remembering who this band of prodigals are. Or the fact that many of the citizenry seem to be robots. And no, I didn’t just spoil the entire thing for you.

Once again, Edgar Wright has crafted a richly nuanced genre picture that’s a bit more than the sum of its parts. Really, The World’s End is more of a smartly written character drama with a science fiction twist and generous dollop of dry British humor. All of the actors do fantastic jobs, bringing palpable depth to their characters, especially Simon Peg and Nick Frost, but that’s to be expected by now. The script was well-written, delivering some great dialogue and manages to take the hodgepodge of genre elements and making a delicious whole concoction.

Overall, The World’s End was a fantastic watching experience, hitting all the right buttons, making the time fly by. As far as I’m concerned, this is a fine capper to this unofficial trilogy, but if Edgar Wright wishes to continue making movies like this, I won’t be complaining. Taken as a stand-alone movie, The World’s End comes highly recommended, not just for genre heads. By itself or taken with the other two movies, you shall enjoy yourself immensely.